Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

13 Oct 2006

Harrington Gets a Second Chance

The Detroit Lions are 1-14 since 2002 in games started by quarterbacks not named "Joey Harrington." Perhaps he wasn't the problem? My argument in favor of giving Harrington the benefit of the doubt in Miami.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 13 Oct 2006

22 comments, Last at 19 Oct 2006, 3:28pm by Patrick


by PackMan (not verified) :: Fri, 10/13/2006 - 3:16pm

I always kind of like Harrington. I think he could be okay, and hope he wins the job in Miami, and Daunte goes to Oakland in the offseason.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Fri, 10/13/2006 - 3:52pm

What's funny about the Siragusa comment is that I ran into him at a club here in Atlanta one Saturday night and he was entertaining a couple of women (who would have been way out of his league if he weren't filthy rich) with champagne...

I've always liked Harrington, and when I watched my obligitory one Lions game every year, I saw a guy who is a good QB on a crap team. Granted, he's no Archie Manning, but the attacks against him were unfair and uncalled for.

by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 10/13/2006 - 4:01pm

He's not the best QB. He still makes stupid mistakes, still doesn't look off safeties and LBs as well as he should, and still favors dumpoffs that will fail instead of getting the ball where it needs to go (and accepting the occasional mistake). But he's a smart guy, he's a competitive guy, has a good long ball, is reasonably accurate, releases well and is a good leader if he has the support.

In Miami, he has a better set of reliable receivers, a good RB, and a porous line. He's also got a fairly decent defense that may actually let him win games if he scores 20. I do think simply not taking as many sacks will help that team win a couple games they would otherwise lose. I don't think he'll make them playoff bound (their line and their running game are still just not that good, sadly) but he'll look better than Culpepper.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/13/2006 - 4:41pm

I thought Harrington would be a bust when he was drafted. Then he had a pretty good rookie year, by rookie standards. And he's gotten progressively worse every year (at least to watch him....I seem to have Kevin Jones on my fantasy team every year and have watched an alarmingly disproportionate number of Lions games. I don't know what DVOA says)

To me, that suggests either a complete loss of confidence, or a lack of coaching, and probably both. I still don't think he's ever going to be what you could call a "good" quarterback, but he should be able to make a career out of being "serviceable", a la Gus Frerotte, Jon Kitna, Brian Griese....

by Daniel (not verified) :: Fri, 10/13/2006 - 4:47pm

Are professional athletes universally this immature? Bly and Siragusa's comments sound a lot like the crap A-Rod gets from his fellow Yankees just because he's not a clubhouse guy. Stop acting like children and just play.

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Fri, 10/13/2006 - 4:48pm

As a Lions fan I agree that too much blame was put on Harrington. Last year his best wide receiver was Scotty Vines. I'm not sure if Harrington will succeed in Miami but as bad as the Lions offense was while he was here he didn't get much of a chance.
I also whole heartedly agree that Matt Millen is one of the worst GM's in the history of the NFL. He makes me look back fondly on the Russ Thomas years (when at the time I thought he was below average).
One more thought as a Lions fan - GO TIGERS.

by matt (not verified) :: Fri, 10/13/2006 - 5:23pm

i think harrington got a raw deal in detroit, as well, and wonder if he can't still be a quality guy...but here's a question - has any quarterback ever completely bombed out in his first full shot, then resurrected a legitimate career elsewhere? steve young is the only one i can think of. maybe vinny testaverde. anyone else?

by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 10/13/2006 - 5:40pm

Matt, the name I kept thinking of as I was writing this was Jim Plunkett. Pretty much a bust with the Patriots, not much better with the 49ers, then finally decent with the Raiders. He was by no means the reason the Raiders won two Super Bowls, but he at least became a solid quarterback, one who was called a bust when he had bad teammates around him but was worthwhile when he had good teammates around him.

by Cleveland (not verified) :: Fri, 10/13/2006 - 5:43pm

Call me crazy but I think Miami is going to start to turn it around now. Harrington moved the ball against NE, and the D basically shut down NE's offense. Yeah, the O-line is weak, but maybe Harrington can help alleviate that with short drops and a quick release. Miami may not make the playoffs, but they'll be a tough out the rest of the way, just in time for the pundits to pick them to make the Super Bowl again next year.

by Marko (not verified) :: Fri, 10/13/2006 - 6:01pm

Cleveland: You're crazy. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Fri, 10/13/2006 - 6:31pm

Too many O-line problems, and not enough pass defense (26th in DVOA). They may be better, but that doesn't mean they'll be good.

by Noble (not verified) :: Sat, 10/14/2006 - 12:33am

11: At the rate they're going, I think they'd be happy with 'better.' ;)

by James, London (not verified) :: Sat, 10/14/2006 - 6:25pm

Assume Harrington plays well for the rest of the season, and Culpepper doesn't play again. Doesn't that give Miami a huge headache next year?

As for the Lions, until management and/or ownership changes they're buggered. Just like the Raiders.

by Phil (not verified) :: Sat, 10/14/2006 - 7:55pm


what about Brett Favre? I don't remember if he started before getting traded and I'm too lazy to look it up.

by Harry (not verified) :: Sat, 10/14/2006 - 11:05pm


Are you old enough to remember Plunkett? He wasn't really considered a bust by most New England fans at the time, at least not through '74, and despite being injured in '75, the 49ers thought enough of him to give the Pats 3 1st rounders to get him. Most fans in New England actually loved Plunkett while he was playing there, it was only in retrospect when the Pats improved so much after he left that people started hating on him (kind of like Bledsoe). I think David Carr is more comparable to Plunkett than Harrington - a seemingly talented QB on a pretty bad team who is getting sacked so much you expect him to get shell shocked, and who is never going be good enough to turn the team around single handedly.

by Travis (not verified) :: Sun, 10/15/2006 - 1:58am

has any quarterback ever completely bombed out in his first full shot, then resurrected a legitimate career elsewhere?

Jake Plummer? Doug Flutie?

by mayhem (not verified) :: Sun, 10/15/2006 - 8:21pm

I always felt bad for Harrington too. It seems a little unfair to blame him when it's been a bad franchise for 50 years.

BTW - anyone watch him in the last half of the dolphins/jets game? He looked pretty good. Or maybe it was the Jets that sucked.

by billvv (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 11:10am

I don't know how "bend but don't break" got such a good reputation. I watch the game for the performance. If I only cared about the win, I'd read the paper the next day. This strategy only makes guys like Harrington look better than the other three quarters say he is.

by JeroWI (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 3:30pm

#14: Favre was a rookie back-up to another Oregon QB, Chris Miller, with the Falcons in 1991 - he played two games. He was traded that offseason to the Packers and replaced Wally Pipp... er Don Majkowski.

by empty13 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/18/2006 - 2:15pm

Near Daytwa here...

Joey sure wasnt all to blame for the Lions debacle. Mornhinweg wasnt real good. Wideouts usu prima donnas and dopers. OL bites. No RB till Jones. Defense sometimes decent, never dominant. And Harrington probly wasnt ready to start so soon.

He had one good year in college. Two years of 3 step drop approach had Lions among league best in fewest sacks, but low completion percentage.

Too many coaches coach to the system and not the talent. Harrington, like Batch before him, is a handoff-big back, chuck it deep kind of QB. Period.

Whatever his faults, he can throw the deep ball. Right now, Pullpecker sure cant. At the start of 05, a few teams were sniffing for Harrington (KC, with Green getting the stent...). Teams out there think he has potential.

Some former Lions players do go on to success elsewhere. Few coaches do...

JH was basically run out of town last year, without being a dopehead. But when Jauron heard the chants for Joey against the Bengals, in he went, and he got a TD. And he played well vs Pitt in game 17. Someone else lost that game for Detroit.

As an aside... re one Joey critic... Until very recently, Daytwa always played BETTER without Cap'n Bly in the lineup. Methinks there are personality issues in play.

GB doesnt have much of a secondary. Might be interesting to watch this week's game.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 10/18/2006 - 5:44pm

And Majkowski ended up finishing his career ... with the Lions.

I believe the list of coaches who escaped Detroit and enjoyed success with other franchises is very, very short:

Marty Mornhinweg, assistant head coach/offensive coordinator, Philadelphia, first season in that role, fourth with the Eagles.

And there's still plenty of time for that to collapse. McNabb vs. ex-Lions curse, round 1 ...

I guess I'd take Harrington over a healthy Culpepper. I'd definitely take him over a not-healthy Culpepper. He wasn't a savior in Detroit, but by the time he got there, one player wasn't going to do it.

Hey! It's been a bad franchise for 48 years, thank you very much. This will be 49. :) (Actually, you could argue that '62 was their last great season: they were 11-3, losing to 12-2 New York and splitting with 13-1 champs Green Bay. '91 was a fluke and none of the other seasons are worth repeating.)

by Patrick (not verified) :: Thu, 10/19/2006 - 3:28pm

His last game in a Lions uniform, Harrington looked surprisingly sharp against the Steelers, and ended up completing about 65% of his passes, if I remember. Granted, the Steelersn were already in the playoffs as wildcard, win or lose, so their D probably wasn't playing as hard, but Harrington seemed to have a surprisingly accurate arm.